Hath No Fury, our new 4.4% Helles Lager, primarily looks to capture a vibe and broadcast it on all channels: Yes, we can agree that 2020 was universally terrible. Granted, we have a lot to complain about in these trying times, but let’s not forget to afford ourselves time for comfort and relaxation. Many of the simple pleasures still very much exist, and a clean and crisp Helles Lager is definitely one of them.
As lagers go, our Helles is a spotlight on technique, accuracy and process management, allowing simple things such as grain quality to shine unimpeded. As a result of a slow and steady fermentation process and an extended period of cold maturation, we get subtle notes of honey, bread and a touch of carefully balanced bitterness in the background. This is really all you need; so sit down, kick back and let the beer flow as we roll into 2021.
Let’s break down what a ‘Helles Lager‘ is first. Firstly, ‘Helles‘ or sometimes just ‘Hell‘ is the German term for pale-coloured. (So already, we’re primed in the UK here for an Anglo-German pun involving pale coloured beer and debauchery… if you think you’ve come up with something funny, it’s probably been done).
Hailing from Munich, they are typically clean, light, malt-driven session beers and despite being simple on paper, they are a lofty aim for any brewer looking to match the Germans on quality.
With a pale lager, your mistakes are more important than your successes. In most other styles of beer, natural complexity will always help to mask any minor errors. Whether it’s a rich ester profile from yeast, tropical aroma/ bitterness from hops or chocolate and coffee notes from malt, there is usually some sense of background noise that can be pushed and pulled in either direction without making too much of a difference.
Here, we have a blank canvas that is supposed to stay blank. It absolutely must be error free brewing in its purest form. Finesse is required, and above all, control and understanding of your process. Making a mistake here, whether that is to do with fermentation control, yeast pitch rate or not allowing sufficient lagering, would be like leaving a tiny smudge on the white wall you just finished painting. It’s going to bug you. People won’t look at your lovely white wall – they’ll look at the smudge.
We shout a lot about hop varieties and special ingredients, but when all that fuss is taken away, it’s about time we shone a light on a yeast strain for a change. The Diamond Lager strain from Lallemand is our weapon of choice. Excellent fermentation capability at a cool 10°C, a predominantly neutral profile and high attentuation and flocculation make this authentic German lager strain the star player in Hath No Fury. We provide plenty of initial oxygen, a high cell count and work to suppress diacetyl production with a cooler onset of fermentation, ramping up later in the process to give a much needed burst of thermal energy to help the yeast finish the job.
The fun doesn’t stop after completion of fermentation! Once we’re done, it’s time for the all important lagering that makes this style so famous. Many people don’t realise that ‘lagern‘ is a word of Germanic origin meaning ‘to store‘ – Imagine my disappointment when on a trip to Sweden I came across a ‘Lager Huset‘… A Lager House? Sadly not. It was a warehouse.
Hath No Fury, just like all lager, requires a variable period of cold maturation (AKA lagering), ranging from 2 to 10 weeks and sometimes beyond, depending on the style and on the brewer’s preference. In this case, 4 weeks was about right.
Prior to the advent of refrigeration technology, those who wished to undertake cold maturation of lager beers had to rely on the physical realities of the world around them. Winter is your friend, and lager yeast loves an extended storage at close to 0°C. Underground caves were a solid bet, but even these could only be utilised in the winter months.
Nowadays, we see lagers everywhere. They’re ubiquitous and available all year round thanks to technological advance, but as with everything that becomes a commodity made for profit over quality, the latter invariably begins to waver. I’m not sure I can think of another beer style where the market quality varies SO much. There are some stunning examples of care and attention in the brewing world that have produced some truly excellent lagers, and yet some of the cheapest, most well known and mass-produced lagers available have so many corners cut – many of them aren’t really even lagered for any appreciable length of time.
COVID-19 has put pressure on many breweries, and we are no different. I do however see a silver lining – we have had some spare capacity in our tanks to produce beers that take a long time, and by being less rampantly busy, I have had some unprecedented clarity of thought; an opportunity to perfect something that may become part of our staple offering as a brewery in future.
Hath No Fury is our best attempt at looking after all the aspects that make this beer style special, all the way from grain to glass. A cleanly-brewed, small batch lager is something to be celebrated, so enjoy it cold and make sure you’re sat somewhere comfortable, preferably within arms reach of the fridge for a top-up.